Last year NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish threw for 2530 yards, 25 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He also ran for 838 yards and seven touchdowns on 137 carries for a 6.1 yard per carry average in this offense.
The Gophers are entering a new era, not only has the coaching staff changed but they are also searching for a new quarterback after the graduation of four year starter and three time captain Adam Weber.
Replacing a four-year starter will be tough but the Gophers have three talented quarterbacks vying for the starting position this spring and will be joined by another talented freshman this summer.
MarQueis Gray: The junior from Ben Davis High School (Ind.) was rated a four-star prospect, No. 14 overall quarterback by Scout.com and was part of the 2008 Golden Gophers recruiting class. He missed most of his senior season of high school due to a broken bone but was still selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American game. Gray was forced to miss the 2008 season due to NCAA clearinghouse issues concerning his ACT scores.
Most of his on field experience has come at the wide receiver position where he had 48 receptions, 645 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons. He also contributed on the ground with 346 yards and one touchdown. When it comes to passes he is 8-of-23 for 86 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Gray has the physical tools to be a successful quarterback in the new offense. He has very good speed and agility for a dual threat quarterback along with a very strong arm. What he lacks, along with the rest of the quarterbacks, is live game action. He has to prove that he has the head for the position being able to read defenses, make checks off of those reads and showing throw accuracy.
Tom Parish: The redshirt freshman from Arrowhead High School (Wis.)was rated a three-star prospect, No. 66 quarterback by Scout.com and was part of the 2010 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Parish ran a very similar offense in high school as the one the Gophers currently employ. Parish has good size standing at 6-foot-3 and has good arm strength being able to make most throws.
Parish was a dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school and has been running with the second team in practice because of his ability to digest the playbook. Parish's skill set also fits well into the new offense he's just as likely to make plays with his legs as he is with his arm.
Moses Alipate: The redshirt sophomore from Bloomington Jefferson High School (Minn.) was rated a three-star prospect, No. 31 quarterback by Scout.com, he was part of the 2009 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Alipate is more of a classic drop-back style pocket passer rather than dual-threat quarterback that best fits the new offense.
Coming out of high school it was known that Alipate had very good arm strength to make virtually every throw on the field but needed refinement. Alipate will also have to show more mobility to show that he can effectively run this multiple offense.
Max Shortell: The incoming freshman from Bishop Meige High School (Kan.) was rated a three-star prospect, No. 57 quarterback by Scout.com, he was part of the 2011 Golden Gophers recruiting class. From Shortell's high school film he has shown that he can make strong accurate throws from the pocket as well as on the run and shown an ability to extend plays when the pocket starts to deteriorate.
Shortell has shown good footwork and mobility for a player who stands at 6-foot-6. He will be joining the Gophers this spring and will have a chance to compete for a starting position in fall practice.
Overall the Golden Gophers have good young talent at the quarterback position entering the 2011 season. The problem facing the young stable of quarterbacks is experience in college game scenarios.
So far Gray has been running with the first team offense, but coaching staff has been reluctant to name him starter so far leaving the door open for Parish or Alipate to move up the depth chart this spring. With the addition of Shortell this fall it will make for an interesting quarterback battle this spring and fall.